Dear Cleo 18 01 01

Dearest Cleo

I hope you are having a good time at Granny C’s and I will catch up with you in the week when you get back. In the mean time I am carrying on with my parallel project.

Parallel Project Collaboration

Collaborating with Cubism

The original cubists, Picasso and Braque, worked by intuition to produce the cubist vision, it is worth noting that around the same time another genius in an unrelated field formulated the theory of relativity and Einstein, like Picasso and Braque, was concerned with the distortion of the space time continuum.

That space is distorted in cubist works is beyond doubt with multiple views of the subject from different viewpoints exacerbating Cézanne’s vision so that space is distorted almost beyond reason. What is not immediately apparent is the time aspect of cubism, the time that the artist spent walking around the subject, changing his viewpoint and selecting from the subject aspects to form a coherent whole. The viewer of the work must invest the time so that they can see the objects depicted in the work defined usually by the title of the work.

It was of vital importance to Picasso and Braque that their work did not tip into the realm of abstraction but remained in the sphere of reality. Braque introduced stencilled numbers and letters into his work for precisely this reason, there is concreteness in numbers and letters, that draws an image back into the realist sphere, for the same reason colle and papier colle reintroduced reality into their somewhat abstract vision, grounding their subjects in the realist sphere. A way in, if you like, for the viewer to invest the time to see how the cubists distorted the single point perspective view to create an alternative space time continuum.

With the above in mind, I embarked on a series of cubist style drawings to investigate the how to of cubism.

Figure 1 (18 01 01 01) Have you read the news today 1, collage and sharpie on A2 sugar paper

My first effort was using a still life set up concentrating on the collage aspect I found the introduction of the collage particularly helpful in organising the composition of the piece and the addition of the mild cubist distortion to the bottle, glass and newspaper has produced an easy on the eye style of cubism beloved of Sunday supplement editors. It also calls to mind the work of Patrick Caulfield, I would not have previously connected Caulfield with cubism but it is surprising who you encounter when you embark on a journey. I was unhappy with the apples, as an apple is round from whichever angle you look, I switched to pears for my next experiment.

Figure 2 (18 01 01 02) Have you read the news today 2, pastel and sharpie on A2 sugar paper

I felt that starting with the collage restricted the freedom of the piece, after all Picasso and Braque did not start to use collage until after 1910, Gris later used collage extensively in his preliminary compositions but the constructive feel was not what I was looking for. The pears were a definite improvement on the apples, the objects are becoming more cubist like but in colouring and high viewpoint it reminds me of a Cezanne which is no bad thing, didn’t Picasso once say “Cezanne is the father of us all”

Figure 3 (18 01 01 03) Have you read the news today 3, collage, pastel and sharpie on A2 sugar paper

By the third attempt I was becoming aware of the need to introduce tonal graduation across the planes to flatten out the image. It is still heavily influenced by Cezanne but there are vast areas of space broken only by the post added collage, a tighter crop is required to get rid of the vast areas of empty space. Picasso and Braque both acknowledged that it is difficult to make cubism work in the corners of the picture plane by using oval frames for their works.

Figure 4 (18 01 01 04) Have you read the news today 4, collage, pastel and sharpie on A2 sugar paper

The objects are becoming more obscure requiring the viewer spending time reassembling them. This time the crop was closer and I spent a lot of time incorporating the table cloth as an object within the group. I like the way it writhes and steps up the picture plane, however the modelling on the apple on the left owes a little too much to Durer’s modelling of planes centuries earlier. I experimented with cropping in Photoshop and felt the below image busier and flatter and constricts the picture plane. I am becoming conscious of the influence of stained glass on cubism, maybe it is because of the flatness of both of the forms, or maybe because of the proliferation of stained glass in Paris and throughout the childhood of Picasso it was indeed a direct influence.

Figure 5 (18 01 01 05) Have you read the news today 4 detail, collage, pastel and sharpie on A2 sugar paper

That the crop works brings forward another problem that I have never seen discussed or reported, it is well known that Picasso received a “classical” art education, how does this or does this not impact on the composition of his cubist work? That is a problem I will have to research later because I am currently avoiding looking at cubist works in order to get an intuitive feel for it.

Figure 6 (18 01 01 06) Have you read the news today 5, collage pastel and sharpie on A2 sugar paper

Figure 7 (18 01 01 07) Have you read the news today 5 detail, collage pastel and sharpie on A2 sugar paper

I was quite pleased with this, the final colour work before deciding that the process may be a whole lot easier without colour.

Figure 8 (18 01 01 08) Have you read the news today 6, pastel and charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 9 (18 01 01 09) Have you read the news today 6 detail, pastel and charcoal on A2 sugar paper

It was easier but gave rise to a further problem. I can see tribal masks and artefacts in it. I am an aficionado of neither, it cubism merely an offshoot of an earlier vision of an African Shaman? Whilst I am sufficiently experienced to examine at sufficient length the problem of composition raised above, I would not know where to start to research this new problem and anyway it would probably take a lifetime or two to establish any plausible link, maybe it is better to accept the conventional wisdom that Picasso was influenced by tribal art and leave it at that, but I do hate an unfully answered question.

Have fun at Granny C’s and we will talk in the week.

My love as always

Mickos xx